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A little imagination helps ...
I trail run with injury-free at the top-of-mind, but I also enjoy challenging myself along the way. If I see someone 200m ahead, then it becomes my challenge to calculate a passing move.
That takes stamina.
You want to run at tempo pace to close the gap, pass strongly enough to discourage tailgating, and then settle back into a pace that keeps you moving ahead. What you don't want is to pass and then blow-up. This is where stamina comes in to play.
Stamina - the ability to win the race
The difference between stamina and endurance can be confusing. Mine definitions are these:
Unless you are the pace-setter in a run, then you are going to be mixed up in the bunch. You'll have to push past, negotiate passing moves, accelerate when others slow, and then challenge strongly at the finish. Those moves all require stamina.
If you are hard-core, then you'll build stamina with interval training and hill sprints, stair sprints and such. That's hard work.
Stamina challenges as a game
What I enjoy more, and which kicks my stamina up a notch or two, is to use the natural opportunities on my everyday course.
I've been running 5km daily for about a year - at least that's my shorthand. Running every day requires variety to remain injury-free. My average is about 5km, but it varies from 4km to 8km, with different terrain, but always on my local cliff-top trails.
The trails spread out, starting about 500m from home. They have tight bends, inclines, ramps, tree roots, sand traps, and chicanes, as well as long smooth sections. They also have people of all kinds - runners, joggers, walkers with dogs, and children.
These "obstacles" are all opportunities to build stamina - that's how I treat them. It is impossible to set a tempo pace because of the obstacles and people, so avoidance, slowing and acceleration are required.
Treating them as opportunities makes them fun. My pattern for the tight corners and potential obstacles around an upcoming corner is to pull back, and then, when clear, push harder and accelerate, and then ease back into a less than tempo pace.
Plan to pass at the next obstacle
If I see the head of a runner in the distance, I move up into tempo pace wherever the trail allows, and judge how the gap is closing. I also calculate where the obstacles are ahead.
If I know the front runner will hit a rise or a sandy patch in, say, 500m then I will tune my effort to be in striking distance at that time. This part of the chase is about aerobic capacity and rhythm. The passing manoeuvre will require stamina.
Of course, these chasing games in themselves build stamina, as well as requiring the application of stamina. Stamina allows you to pass at speed and then extend the gap at your tempo pace, before easing back.
Use the inclines and bends
Mostly, I don't see runners to pass.
I use the inclines, and the winding blind turns as the challenges. For example, where there is a 2% or 3% 1km incline, I will push along, at a tempo pace. As I top it, I ease back a little and keep up a good pace.
The whole point of this type of stamina training is to keep going after the burst. This is not maximal effort training, it's probably 90% at most, and that's rare.
Where the trail rises steeply for 20 or 30 metres, I will sprint up that section pushing hard, and while it's strenuous, it is not a knock-out. You are going to keep running and recover on the move.
There are several opportunities to sprint up long steep paths, 30 to 100 metres. On these, I push hard in the lower sections, making sure I don't overexert myself, and then accelerate as hard as possible up the last 20% and ease off over the top. Recovering after these is taxing, but how long it takes is a measure of your stamina. I'm back in shape after about 100m.
Make the most of your terrain
The point is, that you can use your everyday running to build your stamina. On your running circuits, pick out those places that are a little more strenuous and challenge yourself. Where others are slowing down on a rise, run harder. Where others are slow out of a bend, accelerate. Where others are avoiding a set of steps, run up them.
When you see someone ahead that you believe that you can catch and pass, do it. It's fun feeling yourself perform.
And whenever you push harder, keep running out the other side. The time it takes you to get back into your normal rhythm is a measure of strong your stamina is.
I win, only against myself
For me, these games make my running interesting. It certainly improves my stamina, and when I have to make a "challenge" to "win the race" I have the power to do so.
Sometimes I even throw my hands in the air as accelerate up to the line over the last 200m and pass the leaders!! That's when I love my stamina.
Good luck, good running, keep building that stamina.
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